Do You Know Your Shadow Self?

Today I saw the movie The Shadow Effect for the first time.  The movie was produced by Debbie Ford who recently made her Transition as a result of cancer.  Ford produced and starred in The Shadow Effect along with other spiritual leaders like Marianne Williamson, Deepak Chopra, and James Van Praagh.

The movie defines the shadow effect as the act of projecting onto others the qualities and traits that you have rejected in yourself.  Shadows reside not only in individuals but in groups as well. Social cancers like racism and homophobia are examples of the shadow effect.

A classic example of the shadow at work is the man who spends an inordinate amount of time hating and vilifying homosexuals, seeking them out to abuse and humiliate, joining groups that fight against them, etc.  This type of person may not actually be gay, but we are all “male” and “female” in our characteristics. This person has perhaps thoroughly rejected and hates the part of him that identifies as “feminine”.  Perhaps he was ridiculed in the past for displaying “weakness” or felt a wave of attraction for someone of the same-sex and panicked, thinking that it made him gay – and thus unacceptable – to society.  Whatever the case may be, this irrational hatred of homosexuals has become a shadow for this man which will cause him problems personally and in his interactions with the rest of society.

Similarly, the group shadow of the Catholic church has caused the rest of society to view it with suspicion, rejecting it as the poster child for religious hypocrisy.  With its obsessive focus on the perfection and celibacy of its priests and dogged rejection of homosexuals, it hid the horrible crimes against children that these “perfect” men had been committing.  This is a prime example of how bad the shadow effect can be.  The problem with the shadow is that it is “shadowy” – hard to see in yourself.

The best way to identify your shadow is to look at your own emotional reactions to certain people, including celebrities.  Judging the rich and famous is a national pastime, but it also covers a ton of shadows.  The more unreasonably upset you get about certain “types” of people, the more likely it is that they reflect something about yourself that you have rejected, are afraid of becoming, or are hiding.

For example, my shadow is cheating.  I tend to become irrationally upset about stories of people cheating on their romantic partners.  I have never cheated on anyone or wanted to, but there is another part of me that still wants significant attention and interaction with men even if I am (or they are) in a relationship.  So I overcompensate for the shadow in order to avoid being a “slut” or “home-wrecker”.

Exposing the shadow gives it less power.  Acknowledging that I enjoy opposite-sex interaction and that it doesn’t make me a bad person is the type of self-acceptance and self-love that negates the destructive potential of the shadow.  You can’t do much about outside people judging or rejecting you, but if you can avoid judging and rejecting yourself you can be a confident and compassionate person.  You can do the work in this world that you were meant to do without the baggage that comes from an unhealed shadow.

Healing the shadow is an ongoing process.  Like any long-term relationship, self-love requires maintenance and upkeep – and communication.  Looking within by meditating, journaling, reading and watching spiritual material, and interacting with enlightened beings help us become the children of Light we are meant to be.

But remember, where there’s Light, there is also Shadow.

Embrace yours and have a great week.  Now go follow your bliss!

Here are some things I’m working on or have completed this week…

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